A very interesting and aggressive press conference took place this morning. It was held by Jamil Al Sayyed, one of the four Lebanese generals who spent four years in jail accused of – though never charged with – complicity in Hariri’s assassination. Their detention rested entirely on the testimony of what have turned out to be false witnesses. The man attacked Saad Hariri personally and comprehensively, going to the point of demanding that the Hariri memorial on Martyr’s Square be removed because it is situated on land stolen by Solidere, Hariri’s public-private project development company which expropriated thousands of Lebanese home owners in its effort to rebuild downtown Beirut – with money borrowed by then PM Rafiq Hariri from his own banks to pay his own company, debts to be repaid by the Lebanese state at a handsome interest rate of course. Sayyed announced judicial actions – so does Hizbullah by the way, as well as Syria which has announced arrest warrants for a number of March 14th characters including PSP personality Marwan Hamade, who has reportedly already fled to Paris. Sayyed accused Saad Hariri, among many other things, of spending a quarter of his father’s inheritance on fabricating and compensating false witnesses which he plucked from Lebanese jails and promised plastic surgery and lifelong financial security. He actually went as far as saying ‘the Lebanese people should reject the status quo and work on change even if that requires the toppling of the government by force in the street.’
It will be interesting to see Saad Hariri’s reaction to these accusations – which by the way are uttered by a man who has a lot of accurate inside information and powerful backers. It is amazing that the March 14th forces even thought they would have been able to get away with a four-year long concerted political attack on their large and powerful neighbour – while being at war with their only other neighbour – without suffering consequences. It has been clear since May 2008 at least that their US, French and Saudi backers were not prepared to actually go to any serious lengths to protect them. The (relative) defeat of the neocons in the US by means of Obama’s election should have dispelled any lingering doubts on the matter. The forward-looking Junblatt was the first to defect from the camp after the 2009 parliamentary elections (and seems to have handsomely shifted all personal blame on his lieutenant Hamade while apologizing personally and profusely to president Assad). Saad Hariri’s Future movement has followed suit for all practical purposes, shying away only from officially announcing its retreat. Since the formation of the national unity government (in itself an admission of defeat by M14), the army now officially stands with Hizbullah – and therefore with Syria and Iran. Bashar Al Assad has visited Lebanon for the first time since 2005 – and significantly he was accompanied by the Saudi king Abadallah – and Iran’s Ahmadinejad is to follow on October 13th, reportedly planning to visit the Israeli border. He might well enjoy an afternoon in the family-oriented picnic site ‘Park of Iran’ overlooking Israel – which In the Middle of the East described earlier here – and which finally seems to be discovered by the international media (by VOA first, for some weird reason). The 150-odd Israeli collaborators and spies who have been apprehended in Lebanon over the past two years and are in the process of being tried, are another indication of the shift in the political equilibrium. To be continued for sure.